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Wednesday, 30 August 2006
Under The Biltmore clock

"under the clock at the Astor at seven"...
-- from a reader in response to this post

Biltmore. In New York, not Asheville. But when they meet, that man and that woman, they are not likely to be going off to an Irish bar akin either to the real one described by Mitchell, or tro the imagined one carefully undescribed by Finley Peter Dunne. No, if headed unbedwards, and in those chaste movies they always were, it would be to a nightclub. Not the noisy kind, not the raucous Prohibition-era place (the rap on the door, the peep-hole, the password, the promised raid by the police with the whistles blowing and the paddy-wagon filling up outside with those dancing girls) that was a staple in certain kinds of crime movies starring Jimmy Cagney or Edward G. Robinson (both of whom could have exchanged stories on the set in Yiddish), but rather a place in the early 1930s, without those speakeasy noises on and off, and where the swells gathered -- say, isn't that Edward Everett Horton, playing the upper-class twit from Tuxedo Park or Oyster Bay, chatting up the cigarette-girl? -- but the decibel-level diminished, and there was time for Boy and Girl, or Man and Woman, to talk.

No, if you were to meet someone under the Biltmore clock, and then went to sit somewhere over a drink, that place would not be presided over by McSorley or Mr. Dooley. And the drinks would not have been a beer and gin and whiskey, or an Anna-Christie don't-be-stingy-baby viskey, baby, but rather cocktails for two, we'll take manhattans, and dry martinis, and singapore slings, and there will be a cigarette that bears a lipstick's traces, and smoke will get in your eyes, and let's face it, at least one of us will be bewitched, bothered, and bewildered, but still I can't get started, and perhaps much later at least one of us will discover that a big mistake was made when you agreed to meet me, fatidically, under the Biltmore clock.

Posted on 08/30/2006 1:15 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
31 Aug 2006
Paul Blaskowicz
"One more thing. In this matter of knowing Yiddish Cagney had not kissed the Blarney Stone. He was strictly on the level."

Di Blarneysteyn-anshpilung hob ikh gevolt dem Cagney az a kumpliment vayl er iz geven oys an irlendishe mishpokha (familye).

"On the other hand, I've kissed and clipped the Blarney Stone many times."

Mit a namen vi Fitzgerald, ikh kan mir dos gut denken! Ikh meyne aber fun leyenen fun asakh deyne lange, interesante shriften da, du host nikht nur gekusht dem Blarneysteyn, du host mistome mit dem Blarneysteyn geshloffen!

31 Aug 2006
Send an emailRobert Bove
Ooh. Damned spelczeck.

30 Aug 2006
One more thing. In this matter of knowing Yiddish Cagney had not kissed the Blarney Stone. He was strictly on the level. "My movie star's a good movie star." Here are two examples from Cagney films:

"In the 1932 film "Taxi" a man anxious to get to Ellis Island to meet a recent arrival approaches a cab being driven by Cagney. Man (breathlessly):

"Ikh muz zikh aylen un geyn arunter tsu Elis Aylend!" Cagney (poking his head out the window): "Shvay, Shvayg! Ikh farshtey! Vilst geyn tsu Elis Aylend. Di vayb iz do??" Man: " Vo den! - (With surprise) Bist a yidisher yung!?" Cagney - " Nu vos den - a sheygets!? Khap zikh arayn."

The man quickly enters the taxi.

The second film is "The Fighting 69th" [1940] A group of World War 1 recruits are in formation for inspection and Cagney is standing next to a short Jewish soldier who just finished telling the sergeant that his name is Murphy. Sergeant "Did you say your name is Murphy?" Jewish Soldier: "I did your worship; save in your presence."
Sergeant: "What were you born?"
Soldier: "I was born a boy!" The sergeant walks away in disgust to peals of laughter from the other soldiers.
Cagney (turning to the soldier next to him): " Vos veys er! Er veyst fun gornisht!" Soldier: "Vos veyst er - er iz der balebos!" Cagney: "Nisht far mayn gelt!" While this may come across rather trite in print it is refreshingly cool to watch Cagney as the words come trippingly on the tongue in a glatik, varem, heymish yidish!

Mit vareme grusn,

Al Grand"

[taken from a website devoted to questions about Yiddish]

On the other hand, I've kissed and clipped the Blarney Stone many times.

30 Aug 2006
Hugh Fitzgerald
To Paul Blaskowicz: James Cagney would have been pleased.

To Robert Bove: Possibly the smoke from the Smokies got in your eyes, which would explain that case of ashe(s) to ash(s) or, more exactly, Asheville to Ashville.

30 Aug 2006
Paul Blaskowicz
Hugh -- I love that Joycean "unbedwards".

Nu ja - hob mir wider gedakht az der goyisher Cagney, az a yung yingl hot gelernt af di gas zu reden mama loshen. Efsher er hot afile dem Blarney-steyn gegeben a kush..?

30 Aug 2006
Send an emailRobert Bove
Maybe we're not, after all, talkin' 'bout the same McSorley's. I remember bringing a girlfriend to a famous sawdust-floored McSorely's in the early '70s the first Saturday after the place agreed to allow women to drink there. The FDNY still enjoys McSorley's hospitality, I believe.

Ah, Ashville, gateway to the Smokies, where angels yet live in pristine horseshoe valley.